“So often we know exactly what we are against, but how often do we actually know what we are for?”
A woman named Juanita, who would be one of our guides for the trip, said this to us on our first day in Xela, Guatemala. She was discussing the work of DESGUA, the organization that hosted us for the first half of our travel seminar in Guatemala, and her words really hit me hard. I came down to Tucson this semester firmly convinced, as I am now, that there is extreme injustice on the border and that it was my responsibility to inform members of my own communities in the Pacific Northwest about the horrible reality of immigration policies. But when someone would ask me “well then what do you propose differently?” My momentum and passion would slow a bit, and I would carefully say that I think there are a lot of alternatives to the current system, that I wasn’t an expert on any of them, and while they were complicated they had to be better than our current system.
Even after spending several weeks on the border and learning about border politics in an intimate setting, I still was unable to articulate a complete or passionate defense of what I know that I am for, as much as I could for what I am against.
We learned about some of the difficulties Guatemalans face upon their return to their home country. Many return with skills that they learned while working in the United States that they are unable to put to use in Guatemala, such as certain specialties like Thai cooking. They are also both familial and cultural reintegration problems with returned migrants who no longer identify with the community they emigrated from. Unfortunately, these conditions make it so that many migrants will decide to return to the U.S. after trying and failing to reintegrate. DESGUA seeks to restore in Guatemala opportunities for una vida digna through initiatives that provide alternative economies like Café Red, where returned migrants work and bring the knowledge and experience they had in the U.S. into an incredible culinary experience that our group was lucky enough to be treated to.